Tuckerman Ravine and the summit of Mount Washington as seen from Wildcat D.
Wildcat D 4,062'
March 28, 2004
Wildcat D is on our list of the 48 mountains over 4,000 feet weíre climbing, in an attempt to join the NH 4000 Footers Club. I had read that hikers frequently use the Polecat ski trails to climb it in winter, and that sounded like fun. Finally a day arrived which was warm, promised good views, and Joe and I were both free. Time for a hike.
As usual I left the trail head before Joe. While he set up his GPS and locked the car, etc, I headed out, knowing he would soon catch up. I expected this would be a difficult hike for me, as I was just recovering from a nasty bone infection and minor operation,... and it was. Plus, this kind of gradual, relentless slope always makes my lungs complain.
On the trail, we soon found a need for our snowshoes, due to icy patches. The crampons on the bottom of the shoes were the only thing that kept us able to complete the hike. It would have been much better to have regular boot crampons, and I keep thinking about getting them, but itís one more thing to carry, so I donít go beyond thinking.
Joe had a brand new watch with altimeter, barometer, compass, etc, and this was a great chance to see how well it worked. I've had one for a couple years, and love mine. His is a little different, and we did get slightly different readings for altitude, but over all the two watches were remarkably close.
One thing about using a ski slope to hike, youíre out in the open and get great views all the time. Regular hiking trails may go all the way to the summit before any views open up. Wildcat D sits across from Mount Washington, and the ski slopes face Washington. The views are SO incredible I donít know how people can concentrate on skiing instead of looking at the sights.
I did pretty well on the first half of the climb, but by the second half I was getting wiped out. I hadnít realized how weak I was til then, but I really wanted to reach the summit, so kept on. At a point about 800 feet below the summit elevation I seriously considered turning back. The altimeters kept me going, checking them every so often to see how much elevation I had gained. Began to feel like I had to stop and rest after each 5 steps. Finally rounded a corner and saw the ski lift. Hurrah!
The actual summit of Wildcat D is higher than where the ski lift ends. We found the narrow little trail that leads up to the summit, took off the snowshoes and packs and left them with the people who man the ski lift, and then literally crawled up the slippery chute to the true summit, where thereís an observation deck. The view wasnít half as good as from the slopes, though, so we didnít stay long. Met two guys who were going over to Carter Notch to stay at the hut, or at least that was our understanding. One of the guys was seriously exhausted. They still had a long way to go, over PUD's, (pointless ups and downs), and some real tough trail that wasnít well packed out. It was near 2:00 P.M. We wondered what time they made it to the AMC hut. Sure was glad it wasnít me who had to travel that distance.
Once we were back to the lift area we ate a speedy lunch. I had been having leg cramps, and my right leg pained me with every step, plus I was very tired. Figured we better be heading back down while I still had some energy. Plus Joeís rented snowshoes needed to be back at EMS by 6 p.m.
All the way down we could look into Tuckerman Ravine, where there had just been an avalanche from the Lip. It had rained a couple days before and as rain falls on snow it percolates down through the snow layers til it hits an ice layer. That causes instability and is probably why the very large slab cut loose. Impressive to see the area where it slid.
And speaking of sliding, we made a fast trip down, due to finding a way to shift our weight to the backs of our snowshoes and thereby gained some skidding and sliding with each step. Were back to the car in incredible time, sporting a couple of pretty strong sunburns.
What a great hike. The first of the 4,000 footers for this year, and what fun to be back on the trails again. We stopped, both on the way up, and down, and talked to various skiers. I was surprised at the number of them who knew of the NH 4,000 Footer Club we are trying to join. Everyone was supportive, and one fellow offered us a ride down on the back of his skis. Now, THAT would have been a ride!
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